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Grassroots Community Development in Action

The Eixo Forte region of the Brazilian Amazon has strong touristic potential due to its proximity to the city of Santarém, beautiful beaches, and the river resort of Alter do Chão. Tourism development will likely reach the region on its own, but if communities are not equipped to take advantage of this opportunity in a sustainable way, the communities will realize little economic gain and risk environmental and cultural degradation. In our Eixo Forte Community-Based Tourism Project, we aim to help prepare the communities in this region for success in the tourist sector by fostering community-based ecotourism. We have collaborated with local seasoned development professionals who live in the region. Since our work began in the communities, we have helped mobilize community groups to become more active in leading improvements in the region. The project has also incorporated a participative process of community planning and leadership development through a series of local meetings, which has resulted in the foundation of a comprehensive regional development plan. Although the Community-Based Tourism Project is far from complete, it has already increased economic activity and environmental stewardship in the region, and there is a high potential for further economic development and increased self-sufficiency in the community as the project continues.

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Many impoverished individuals and communities worldwide lack control over the factors and decision-making processes that shape their lives – perpetuating the cycle of poverty. This lack of control undermines self-sustaining development and sustainable positive change, regardless of the amount of resources spent.


CEN empowers communities by strengthening their grassroots capacity to manage their development process from the bottom up, so that it coincides with the culture, values, visions and aspirations of the community. By developing community ownership of the process – and enabling residents with the skills and confidence to bring their plans to fruition – long-term sustainability is more attainable. 

How CEN Fosters Grassroots Community Development

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CEN strengthens the capacity of communities to manage the development process from the bottom up by:

  • Mobilizing communities to explore and identify their own vision for their future by initiating and facilitating a series of community-wide discussions that include a broad participation of individuals, groups and leaders throughout the community. We value social inclusion and work in ways that recognize that discrimination exists, promote equality of opportunity and good relations between groups, and challenge inequality and exclusion.
  • Facilitating and coaching the community’s development plan that incorporates their visions, aspirations and needs.
  • Strengthening local leadership, governance capacity, and institutional bodies so communities can lead and manage the execution of their plan with minimal external support.
  • Applying our PRATICAR learning approach of mentoring and project-based activities, through which CEN provides communities and their residents with technical know-how, entrepreneurship skills, soft skills, and mindsets to realize their aspirations, such as building sustainable livelihoods.
  • Working with communities to identify key systemic and external obstacles that might interfere with the sustainability of individual and community initiatives. We then collaborate with communities, government agencies, businesses and other nonprofit organizations to reduce these obstacles by providing key infrastructure, improving access to markets and capital, and improving local value chains.

Suruaca Sept 2007 Teachers Watch VideoGoal of Grassroots Community Development

Through our grassroots community development strategies, communities gain control over the factors and decision-making processes that affect their lives – empowering them to take charge of their own development process and providing the conditions for self-sustaining development and sustainable positive change. Community development is about building active and sustainable communities based on social justice and mutual respect. It is about changing power structures to reduce the barriers that prevent people from participating in the issues that affect their lives and allowing them to realize their dreams and aspirations. 

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We employ a variety of core capabilities, including soft skills, grassroots community development, community-based tourism, and building sustainable livelihoods, in order to empower individuals and rural communities around the world to become more self-reliant.

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